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Fiction #368
(published February 7, 2008)
Pool Dreams
by David Melody
Miles Doltstein was a swimming pool salesman, but unlike his peers in the business, all of whom were members in good standing of the International Society of Pool Expressions Extraordinaire, or ISPEE, and who were at this very moment meeting on the second floor of the Holiday Inn in downtown Phoenix, Miles had bigger things in mind. From where he sat in his car, across the street from the hotel, the expression "you're all wet" was about to take on a whole new meaning.

Back in high school he'd never done anything noteworthy (nor in the years since, for that matter.) The kids had nicknamed him Dolt from the moment he arrived as a sophomore transfer from Parker, the smallest district in the state; he could never shake the name. That first day he'd spilled the entire contents of his lunch tray down his shirt and pants. They'd had lots of names. During senior year, his long awaited chance at the Drive-In with "Miss Available," Christine Manibone, ended with her screaming hysterically out the window about his mild manhood; they practically had to stop the movie. After that he pretty much kept to himself, except for chess club. He could "mate with the best of them," they said.

His father, a past-president of ISPEE, got him the job. Miles had never planned to follow his father into the pool world. For years he'd fantasized about joining the FBI; but his size (five foot two), undersized muscles, and poor testing history, conspired against him. This, after he'd already purchased, mail order, a complete set of FBI logo clothing, including the limited edition wool underwear—he'd read winters were cold in Washington D.C.

The sun continued its mid-morning journey. Driving in from his condo in Tempe, he'd finessed the details, stopping at the company warehouse on the way. A few days before, Miles had learned he was the only salesman in the five-county region who'd not be receiving a commendation plaque at the annual meeting. On top of that, his email invitation to the event never arrived—a fluke, at least that's what the Communications Director said.

As the car interior heated up, Miles imagined a giant magnifying glass positioned above the car, held not by some unseen hand but by the hand of all those pool salesmen, sitting in their air-conditioned suite, making jokes as they looked down on him, watched him squirm. He had no intention of squirming, no matter how hot they made it.

The shade he'd parked in was nowhere to be seen. Sweat beaded up and slowly made its way between the hairs on the back of his neck. One drop, then another, sliding down his back like a long wet finger, itching. He was reluctant to lower the tinted windows of the pale blue El Dorado, lest anyone spot him. He rarely came to this part of town, but you couldn't be too careful. From the movies he knew that waiting in a car, while you scoped out your prey—no matter how inconvenient, uncomfortable and un-heroic—was an art, a real art; and Miles, dressed in full camouflage, was feeling like an artist.

At exactly noon he opened the car trunk and strapped on the five-gallon, high-powered backpack sprayer he'd filled earlier that morning with pool cleaner: undiluted, hydrochloric acid—it's concrete etching power measured in seconds.

He scratched his nose, headed towards the side door of the hotel. Passing through the maze of hallways, within minutes he reached suite 142. A ripple of laughter from inside. They were laughing at him.

"Exterminator?" a voice asked from behind. Housekeeping passing in the hall.

"Pool Expressions Extraordinaire," replied Miles, pumping hard on the sprayer as he opened the door.

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